CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2011
In the 1930s, Preston, ON, was a small town about 100 km southwest of Toronto, but today it has been absorbed by the city of Cambridge. According to author Adams, a sports historian at the University of Lethbridge, the existence of the Preston Rivulettes hockey team was due to Hilda Ranscombe, who, in 1930, was just a 13-year-old girl. Following the summer baseball season, Hilda, along with her older sister Nellie, were looking for a winter team sport for girls, but the community did not have a girls hockey team. With the encouragement of a female sportswriter from the Toronto Daily Star and their local MP, the girls recruited a team of 10 female teen players, secured a coach and joined the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association. Playing in the intermediate league for new teams, the Rivulettes won the 1931 league championship, a feat they repeated in 1932. In 1933, because there were not enough teams to merit intermediate and senior leagues, the Rivulettes played in the senior league and won the Ontario championship and also were given the opportunity to play in the first ever national finals for women’s hockey, with their opponents being the Edmonton Rustlers. Following a three-day train journey, the Rivulettes stepped on the ice just five hours after arriving in Edmonton to play the first game of a two-game total goal playoff, a game they lost 3-2. Their second, and last ever team loss, occurred the next day.
The 1934 season saw the Rivulettes beat the Montreal Maroons in Montreal in one sudden-death game to represent Eastern Canada in the national finals where, again, their opposition was to be the Edmonton Rustlers. It was Eastern Canada’s turn to host the championship, but, with the economic conditions of the Great Depression, the Rivulettes couldn’t raise the $1,500.00 needed to cover the Rustlers’ travel expenses and, consequently, they forfeited the championship. The impact of the Depression was even greater the following year, and many women’s teams folded, but the Rivulettes still won the Ontario title for the fifth straight time and beat the Summerside [PEI] Primrose A.C. for the Eastern Championship. Once again, the national championship was to be held in Ontario with the Winnipeg Eatons being the Western Champions, and this time the Rivulettes won the Lady Bessborough Trophy which symbolized their being Canadian champions. In 1936, the Rivulettes again were again national finalists, but once more they had to default as they could not raise the funds to get to Winnipeg. The 1937 season saw the Rivulettes once more hosting the national championship, with their opponents being the Winnipeg Olympics, and the Rivulettes captured their second national championship.
For the 1938 season, the team was sponsored by the Preston Springs Hotel and became known as the Preston Springs Rivulettes. Again, they became national champs. In some ways, the team’s success contributed to its eventual demise as attendance (and revenue) declined as fans seemed disinclined to watch games in which the outcomes were never in doubt. Nonetheless, 1939 saw the Preston Springs Rivulettes win a forth, and last, national championship. September, 1939, also saw Canada at war with Germany, and with people’s interests turning to war efforts, “[t]he Rivulettes were forced to hang up their skates after only a handful of games.” While the team played some exhibition games in 1941 and 1942, by “the end of 1942 the team disbanded and all of the players retired.”
The main text is sometimes a little flat as Adams recounts game action. Adams was likely limited by being able to only draw upon period newspapers for game details. However, text boxes frequently augment the main text by additional entertaining facts. For example, while the Rivulettes had to play away games, a text box, entitled “Chaperones,” informs readers:
Today’s readers might be surprised by how rough women’s hockey games were in the 1930s, and Adams reports that fist fights even broke out. Team rosters were also much smaller than today (especially for the more expensive away games), and some players would be on the ice for the entire 60 minute game.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives and watches hockey in Winnipeg, MB.
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